The trip to St Mary’s, like the one the Blues used to make to the tight confines of The Dell, is almost always a tricky one for Everton. Five of their last six visits to Southampton had ended in defeat, none more convincing than their last two when they were passed off the park by Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side.

The Saints might have made an erratic start to the season but they beat Chelsea at home at the end of August and, on their day in front of their home fans, they can be a very difficult proposition. Today wasn’t one of those days, although had Jordan Pickford not been alert 20 minutes from the end and had Duje Ćaleta-Carn not volleyed a gilt-edged chance over the bar in stoppage time, they could have ruined Everton’s day.

Frank Lampard’s Toffees earned this victory, though — only their second under his stewardship so far and only Everton’s second since their 2-0 win down the road at Brighton more than a year ago. It wasn’t always pretty, by the end it was a little ragged, but this was a markedly better display than the one they put on in this fixture back in February and it helped extend the team’s unbeaten run to seven matches in all competitions.

Indeed, it’s fair to say that Everton dominated the first half and could have been a couple of goals to the good by the halfway stage if they hadn’t exhibited so little nous in the final third. Lampard admitted afterwards that, “[t]here are glimpses … but we can get a lot better and we've got hard games coming up so we need to stay on it,” a nod, no doubt, to the fact that his team were resolute at the back and tidy in midfield but found that promising attacks routinely fell apart in and around the opposition penalty area.

Whether it’s through more work on the training pitch with the current personnel or via the transfer market over the next couple of windows, it’s a lack of cutting edge that the manager will be desperate to resolve but today, the determination, spirit and togetherness of the players he already has saw them find their feet after conceding the first goal to turn the contest on its head with two quick-fire goals early in the second half.

The concession of the opener to Joe Aribo could have been devastating and would, you feel, have proved decisive to the Everton of last season. It was made worse by the fact that the goal had come directly from an uncharacteristically lazy and wayward pass by Idrissa Gueye who had been almost exemplary up to that point. (The Senegal international had atoned for a similarly sloppy piece of play in the first half by quickly winning the ball back.)

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And were it not for James Tarkowski’s own powers of recovery, Southampton might have retaken the lead straight after Conor Coady’s richly-deserved equaliser after the centre-half had passed straight to a white and red shirt in his own half. He got back, however, to block Che Adams’s shot superbly and was then helped out by Vitalii Mykolenko and Seamus Coleman who also put their bodies on the line to retain parity. Less than 60 seconds later, it was 2-1 as Dwight McNeil hammered home brilliantly for what would prove to be the winner.

Such are the building blocks of momentum and a habit of, firstly, not losing and then winning, something Everton have now done in consecutive games for only the second time since beating Burnley at Goodison Park in September 2021.

With Nathan Patterson ruled out through injury and Anthony Gordon feeling “under the weather” in the manager’s words, Lampard made two changes to the starting XI beyond restoring Pickford between the posts in place of his deputy Asmir Begovic.

As expected, Coleman came in at right-back and McNeil replaced Gordon on the right flank and though both players exhibited a bit of rust, Everton began to find some rhythm after Iwobi had almost picked Amadou Onana out in the middle with a cross from the left but the Belgian was just beaten to it by a defender.

At the other end, Che Adams clipped a shot into the side-netting after five minutes but it was the Toffees who carried the greater attacking threat, even if their attacks often foundered when they reached the final third.

Demarai Gray narrowly missed with a direct free-kick, Coady almost got his toe to a ball in following a set-piece and Neal Maupay had a couple of opportunities when his shot from close range was blocked and later when he popped up at the back post at a corner but his header was caught by Gavin Bazunu.

The best chance of the first period had fallen to Gray, though, when, having done the hard part by gliding past his man with impressive footwork, he could only serve up a tame finish that the keeper comfortably saved.

Ralph Hassenhüttl’s men finished the first half with a brief flurry that saw Stuart Armstrong’s low cross deflect into Pickford’s arms and the same player then test the Everton keeper for the first time with a deflected shot that was also safely gathered.

The Blues and Gueye, in particular, had looked increasingly composed as the first half had gone on but a dreadful pass by the Senegal international across midfield went straight to an opposition player and the ball was quickly worked to Adams who found Aribo and he drilled through a crowd of blue shirts to give the hosts the lead.

Everton won a free-kick by the touchline halfway inside Southampton’s half almost immediately by way of reply and when Gray’s delivery found Onana at the back post, the lanky Belgian headed back across goal where Coady, the Blues’ best outfield player on the day, was lurking to bang it home.

Another horrendous pass out from the back, this time by Tarkowski, allowed Southampton in for a chance to restore their lead but the former Burnley defender made amends with a terrific block that was emulated by Vitalii Mykolenko and then Coleman as the Blues staved off the attack and began one of their own.

Iwobi collected a pass on the Toffees’ right and floated a ball in towards the penalty spot where Onana appeared to be pushed over by Kyle Walker-Peters but it continued on to McNeil who took one touch and then slammed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net to give Everton the lead.

Onana could have killed the game just three minutes later when he stooped to meet Coleman’s cross but put his header horribly wide and then, after Adams had chested the ball down and volleyed just wide, Gray was clean through but could only shoot at Bazunu, with Video Assistant Referee, Lee Mason, no doubt poised to rule it out for offside in any case.

The final 20 minutes were dominated by the Saints as they tried to find a way back to parity but Adam Armstrong’s effort from 12 yards bounced over the bar in the 71st minute and Stuart Armstrong arrived to meet a similar cut-back from the by-line but Pickford flew to his left to push it around the post a minute later.

The England international then beat away a strong shot from Walker-Peters and Coleman did well to head away a James Ward-Prowse free-kick but it wasn’t until the match moved into six minutes of added time that Hasenhüttl’s side threatened again to grab a point.

Everton’s markers failed to pick Caleta-Car up from a free-kick but, thankfully, the Croatian could only side-foot his volley over when he had the whole goal to aim at while Adam Armstrong had one last chance off Adams’s knock-down but shot straight at Pickford.

Again, this was the kind of fixture that the Blues would have lost this season, particularly after falling behind, so its testament to the job that Lampard is doing, the positivity he has injected into the camp, and the character of the players he has helped bring into the club that this time, they not only got something from the match but went on to win it.

Teams that can put a run of results together can see their League position improve rapidly and Everton have hauled themselves out of the bottom three to a position just outside the top 10 having avoided defeat in six Premier League games now with the second-best defence in the division.

Tough tests await in the form of Manchester United next weekend and daunting trips to Tottenham and Newcastle after that but there is a solidity and mental fortitude now that will give the team every confidence they can grind out results against the odds where before they would have folded. Onward and upwards, as they say…

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Reader Comments (30)

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Scott Dixon
3 Posted 02/10/2022 at 00:24:30
Pickford, Tarkowski, Coady, Gueye, Onana, Iwobi look to be a spine that won't collapse and from which we can finally build.

For the first time in a long time, it feels like we have a plan and, with a few more thoughtful signings over the next couple windows, we should continue to see progress. UTFT.

Paul Kernot
4 Posted 02/10/2022 at 00:52:59
I agree, Scott, but hell there is work to do.

Midway through the 2nd half, I got that very familiar feeling that if we keep making stupid decisions and giving up the midfield, it was only a matter of time til they equalised. In fact, they'll be gutted they didn't.

We tried pretty hard to give up the 3 points from where I was sitting. I was praying for the final whistle.

Scott Dixon
5 Posted 02/10/2022 at 02:56:31
Agree on the work to do, mate. Years of decline will take years of patient rebuild. But, given the absolute lack of a spine last season – and the amount of new faces that have had to be integrated quickly, there's reason to be optimistic at least – we've become harder to beat if nothing else.

Next Sunday under the lights could be another catalyst.

Peter Warren
6 Posted 02/10/2022 at 08:21:28
Still think we would be a different prospect with a proper striker.

I hope Calvert-Lewin gets fit and firing but. It's looking hopeful after being injured for what feels like 21 months now.

Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 02/10/2022 at 08:21:52
We don't fold, and we see games out. Much to the detriment of my breathing capacity, but we are so much better organised and mentally stronger.

On the National Express back to London last night, we had a good chat with some London-based Everton and Southampton supporters.

It was interesting listening to them and the general discontent with their manager. Apart from one who is convinced they'll finish well inside the Top 10.

I think he might be my Southampton alter-ego as I told him we're going to Europe.

Rob Dolby
8 Posted 02/10/2022 at 08:50:33
After the first 15 minutes, we controlled the first half and, with better quality from Gray, we go a couple up at half-time. Onana and Maupay had good headed opportunities but wasted them.

For a big lad, Onana needs to practice heading the ball, there is no way he meant to head that backwards to Coady. He also put one about 10 yards wide from 8 yards out.

We deserved the points. Pickford again with a world-class save. A solid midfield 3 with legs is making a massive difference compared to last year. The goal will do wonders for McNeil's confidence.

I can't believe Ward-Prowse is still with Southampton, there aren't many better centre-midfielders in the Premier League.

My MotM was Connor Coady, a solid centre-back's performance and tops it off with a goal.

Rob Halligan
9 Posted 02/10/2022 at 10:39:04
Rob, you can’t believe Ward-Prowse is still at Southampton, I can’t believe Trossard is still at Brighton. That lad is some player, is also a regular for Belgium, and can score some goals! I firmly believe he won’t be at Brighton this time next year.
Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 02/10/2022 at 10:42:08
Definitely a carefully headed pass Rob!!!

I thought Onana had scored until about an hour after the match!!

Will Mabon
11 Posted 02/10/2022 at 11:04:56
I think I saw something different to some yesterday.

No denying the dead ball ability but, that aside, I thought Ward-Prowse was quiet and had little influence.

Of course he's a fine player, just didn't show it yesterday, I felt.

Brian Harrison
12 Posted 02/10/2022 at 11:37:38
I think there is a lot to like about this side but also a lot that frustrates me.

I think Lampard after the game summed up my thoughts exactly; he said "We need to be more clinical, and sometimes on the break we slowed things down when we are looking to play at pace."

There is no doubt Coady and Tarkowski have made us solid and, with Mykolenko and Coleman, we look more secure. Also, Gueye in midfield gives us more possession although it was his mistake that led to their goal.

But going forward, we just don't look like we are going to create many chances. Iwobi is like a different player but, for me, he doesn't get into shooting positions enough and very rarely ventures into the opponent's box.

The same can be said of Onana. I thought again yesterday that large parts of the game passed Onana by... there is no doubt the boy is talented but it will take him probably most of this season to get used to playing in the Premier League.

There is no doubt Gray is a good player but he has to convert some of the chances he has had in the last few games. I think it might be worth swapping him with Iwobi because, when he first came, Benitez had him playing more central and, with his pace, he caused teams plenty of problems.

Maupay worked hard but, because of his lack of height, we need to play the ball to feet as he won't win any aerial battles.

There is no doubt the fans are having a huge impact on this team – just as they did last season, and even the media are commenting on this. They also highlighted, with train strikes, to have 3,000 away fans was remarkable. The players also seem to appreciate what great backing they receive.

Nice for McNeil to score his first league goal, and what a good finish it was; hopefully this will give him a lot of confidence.

Getting back-to-back victories in the Premier League is no easy task, and it certainly makes a big difference to the league position when that happens. I think Southampton are the worst team we have played so far this season and if we hadn't picked up maximum points, I think it would have set us back.

Finally, can we please sort out our delivery from corners? We seem to struggle to get our head on any corners despite having Coady, Tarkowski, Onana and Mykolenko – all over 6 feet tall.

Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 02/10/2022 at 11:46:17
Really good discussion point, Will. Another we discussed yesterday. His set-piece / dead-ball delivery is quality. Every time he stepped up, I was fearing the worse.

But his play has something to be questioned.

Is it me being ignorant or was Beckham similar but on a better scale and level? In the team for a reason? A specialist.

Just a thought.

Anthony Flack
14 Posted 02/10/2022 at 12:21:45
Danny@13 when I read your post on my mobile it truncated the start and only showed:

"But his play has something to be questioned.

Is it me being ignorant or was Beckham similar but on a better scale and level? In the team for a reason? A specialist.

Just a thought."

I thought you were referring to McNeil, who I thought had a poor game in possession, but looked good taking corners. Obviously he scored a belter, which might give him a lift.

Danny O’Neill
15 Posted 02/10/2022 at 12:26:06
Just to clarify, Anthony, the Beckham comparison was related to Ward-Prowse.

Yes, we just need McNeil to settle into life at a big club and grow in confidence to be a useful member of a squad. His goal got us the 3 points yesterday. He has a role to play and, at 22, he can get better.

James Lauwervine
16 Posted 02/10/2022 at 13:28:59
I was fortunate to be at the match yesterday because a mate works for Southampton FC and got me a media pass. So I was sat up next to the main tv camera in the media gallery with an amazing view. I even had a desk and power points! The downside was having to restrain myself when we scored and not be too outwardly amused at the frustrations and anger of the fans sat nearby.
Best of all was after the final whistle as the sullen home fans queued to leave and were forced to endure the joyous celebrations of the very loud Everton fans. The first time in my life I have witnessed our fans from that vantage point and it was beautiful to behold.
As for the game itself, first half we were clearly the better team, though Soton were terrible and could barely string a couple of passes together. We should have been in front. Second half, the first 10 minutes were crazy, a totally different game. What bothered me was that, after we went ahead, we barely crossed the halfway line for the remaining 40 minutes. Soton did press hard and really should have scored at least one, but we held on. Their main tactic seemed to be to try to win freekicks or corners and score from one of them. Anyway, the final whistle was a relief and I think we just about deserved the win, but it would be nice to see us learn to put games to bed, rather than becoming overly defensive and protective when we take the lead.
Great win though and an extremely enjoyable day!
Terence Leong
17 Posted 02/10/2022 at 14:58:38
What I can't quite figure out, is how we seem to retreat and start playing deep, to soak up the pressure and invite the opposition to attack us, after we score.
Not sure if it's an intentional tactic, or it's been so ingrained into us, that we are not wired to go for the kill; or is it to conserve energies. Nevertheless, glad that we got two wins on the bounce. Hope that continues.
Brian Murray
18 Posted 02/10/2022 at 15:05:09
Beckham could change a game on his own and not always from a set piece. If McNeil gets anywhere even close to him, it can only help us until Calvert-Lewin is ever fit or we have someone in January. Still not ruling out Tom Cannon to make a name for himself.
Jack Convery
19 Posted 02/10/2022 at 16:15:56
A good 3 points.

Lage sacked at Wolves. Is Coady nailed on to sign next summer? Can Wolves insist he comes back to them?

Ed Prytherch
20 Posted 02/10/2022 at 16:44:55
City conceded 3 today and we now have the fewest goals against in the Premier League. Now all we have to do is score a few more.
Steve Daniells
21 Posted 02/10/2022 at 17:17:45
Jack #19: excellent question - does anyone know the details around Coady’s loan? Can Wolves recall him at anytime or did we pay a fee that guarantees he stays with us for the season and then there’s an obligation to buy?
Ray Roche
22 Posted 02/10/2022 at 17:36:53
Steve @21,

“Everton will have an option to buy the England centre-back at the end of the season” for between £10-£12M.

Steve Daniells
23 Posted 02/10/2022 at 18:25:22
Thanks, Ray!
Jack Convery
24 Posted 02/10/2022 at 19:19:48
Ta Ray.
James Flynn
25 Posted 02/10/2022 at 22:53:58
Pretty good so far.

GA: 7 - 1st
Tackles: 163 - 1st
Clearances: 217 - 1st
Blocks: 39 - 1st
Saves: 35 - 1st

David West
26 Posted 03/10/2022 at 00:16:04
As some have said. Least goals against in the league. How far we have come?

Just a few more goals, more clinical, a bit cutting edge while keeping solid will make us a bit a of a side no team will want to play against.

2 wins isn't all that much to shout about. But what is worth shouting about is the form, the defence, the resilience.

Jim Harrison
27 Posted 03/10/2022 at 04:58:39
Hung on in there in the end, and it shouldn't have been so tight. Up until their goal, it had been pretty comfortable. We need Gray to start delivering rather than looking promising!

But a win, hard fought, will boost confidence. There are going to be times this season when we are going to need to take our medicine, but going away from home and winning against a team who currently stand as a direct rival for mid table places is a massive positive.

Anthony Flack
28 Posted 03/10/2022 at 09:57:20
Jim, we also need Gray to stop taking corners!

Jeez, they were terrible!

McNeil's were better.

Laurie Hartley
29 Posted 03/10/2022 at 10:51:57
James # 25 - do you have any stats on corners conceded and defended? I think it would be an eye opener.
Tom Bowers
30 Posted 03/10/2022 at 12:54:57
Whilst every game is critical, in the final analysis, this one against the Saints could be the one that defines the rest of the season.

It was so important not to flounder after the win against the Hammers and they came up trumps against a side that are always dangerous.

Everton have a few very hard games coming up before the World Cup break so it was important to have some extra points already in the bag.

The best defensive record in the Premier League shows how far Lampard has improved the system – although we know that scoring is still a problem to be resolved.

Brian Murray
31 Posted 03/10/2022 at 12:59:28
Jim @27.

Without getting ahead of ourselves, Gray will be phased out by a player of similar ability but less hit-and-miss.

James Flynn
32 Posted 03/10/2022 at 23:42:16
Laurie (29) - Didn't look. Here's a fun and easy site for a wide variety of stats.


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